I'm frugal because I just don't like throwing my money around! Not that I have a lot, being a single parent and not having a well paid job. There is also a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I can do most things in a cheaper way. I like to try to be as 'green' as possible too.
The best tip I can give for a frugal lifestyle it this - GET RID OF YOUR CAR! Now I know that many of you will have already stopped reading, but it saves me at least 2000 pounds a year, that pounds, not dollars. I cycle to work and use the bus if I need to carry anything bulky or heavy. I have a complete change of clothing in my locker at work since the weather in Northern England is notoriously wet. Yes it takes longer, though strangely, not as long as when I get the bus to work. My bike cost me 250 pounds and paid for itself within a few weeks and I honestly can't see me ever owning another car.
My house is tiny and is a mid terraced, so my neighbours, very kindly, contribute to keeping my house warm! I don't have central heating and discovered a couple of winters ago that it was actually cheaper to leave the gas fire in my living room on its lowest setting all the time (in winter), rather than have the fire turned up full just when we needed it. This serves 3 purposes, firstly it keeps the whole house warm, secondly when we're not using the room I dry clothes in there using a clothes rack (I don't have a dryer as they use vast amounts of electricity) and thirdly it keeps our very elderly cat (she's now 20) happy! The house is very well insulated, so that helps keep heating costs down still further. I have very thick curtains at all my windows, since I've read that large amounts of heat escape through even double glazed windows. I either bought the curtains, very cheaply, in charity shops or made them myself.
Most of my furniture is second hand, found in skips or given to me. Thinking about it the only items I bought new were the fridge, sofa and daughter's bed (which was her 18th birthday present). Luckily I love renovating and making stuff and a lot of my furniture was adapted. One of my best ever bargains was a set of table and chairs for £5, bought in a local church charity shop. I wasn't about to pay anyone to deliver it so I bought a 1 day bus ticket, took the table apart and made several journeys home with the set using buses. The bus drivers were quite amused, but none of them refused me and I had some lovely conversations with total strangers. It did take me most of the day but the sense of achievement was worth it. I also find charity shops great for household equipment; I've bought all sorts of things including a pressure cooker for £2 and a set of enamelled cast iron pans for £6. I know some people who will haggle in charity shops, but I don't do that.
Cutting down on meat eating is frugal too; I'm amazed by how many of the recipes on this site use meat! Veggies are cheaper and better for you and adding beans or pulses to the meal provide the protein. I do have a freezer and freeze left overs for taking to work. I also freeze butter wrappers for greasing baking tins etc. I never set out with a definite shopping list, I wait to see what's cheap and plan the menu around that. I never shop in supermarkets, as far as I'm concerned they are just not ethical instead I shop on the local market, where the traders get to know you and will sometimes offer you things a little cheaper. I make stock from all the odds and ends of the veggies and freeze this too. If I'm boiling potatoes or an egg, then I'll fetch the water to the boil then turn off the heat but leave the pan on the stove, yes it takes a bit longer but it saves power. I also have a haybox cooker, though mine is newspaper not hay, but I presume everyone who's a bit frugal has one of these. I find that the Asian shops sell herbs, spices and pulses very, very cheaply adding some interest to my diet. For example I can buy 1 kilo of black peppercorns for about £2, but in other shops I would pay that for less than 50 grams!
Luckily I'm quite crafty, and can knit, so I knit quite a lot of stuff for myself. I don't pay full price for yarn though; I either scour the charity shops or go to a local shop where they will wind quantities off the cone for you, which works out much cheaper. Last year I was given a huge bag of yarn, unfortunately, there is not a lot of any one yarn, but the majority of it is wool. I am planning to knit and then felt pieces and then sew them together to make a rug. I just haven't fathomed out what to use for backing yet. I also want to make some rag rugs and am collecting the fabric together for that. I also make cushions and some patchwork out of old clothing. Since I don't own a TV (I won't pay the £150+ every year for a TV licence, but I can't stand the drivel that's on it anyway), knitting, sewing and reading keep me nicely entertained at a modest expenditure and I listen to the radio, because that's free.
My clothing comes from sales and charity shops, though in my experience charity shops can sometimes be more expensive than regular shops, you really have to know how much you want to pay for something. With sales it pays to go regularly, at the start note how many of your particular size they have in stock, if there are a lot you can probably wait and get the item reduced further. If however there is only one and you really want it, buy it then to avoid disappointment. I have had some fabulous bargains, probably the best was a pure silk, beaded and embroidered camisole for £1, which my daughter still wears and loves, and that was in a large retail chain.
I think being frugal is probably infectious, since my daughter is quite frugally minded too. Unlike many of her peers she simply won't buy things just because they are 'must haves' and always thinks before she spends any money. All her friends though say how welcoming our home is, even though we don't have many of the trappings that they have. They also seem impressed that I will take the time to bake and make things and some even ask me to.
There are still some things I'm planning to implement, for example I was reading on this site about using solar lights indoors. I think this is a fantastic idea and plan on buying a couple, I thought I could charge them outdoors and bring them in an evening, I think I'll put one in the bathroom overnight so that we don't have to put the light on when we get up during the night. I would love to get solar panels to heat our water but the cost is just prohibitive. I would also like to get a bike trailer to enable me to carry bigger loads, but that's only an idea at the moment, especially since I would have to find somewhere to store it. I really would like a wood burning stove, unfortunately since I live in a town it would contravene pollution laws so that's not an option, just a pipe dream. So I shall have to keep thinking about ways to reduce my gas and electric bills still further.
Although I'm frugal, there are some things that I won't consider giving up. I believe that there are some things that make life that little bit more enjoyable, for me a good cup of tea or coffee are such things. To reduce the cost of these I buy them in bulk, but I'm not about to stop drinking them, or buy cheaper brands, that would simply be a step too far.
Living a frugal lifestyle is sometimes challenging, sometimes even difficult and I think you have to have a very determined mind to succeed but its well worth the effort, the sense of achievement can be great.
Myrtle May from UK
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Lovely story, Myrtle May. I, too, am car free. I can't imagine that the cost of a car would ever be worth it for me.
I believe your life (and mine) is actually much richer because of your frugality. You are in tune to what is really important in life, and the superficial is nowhere to be found.
BRAVO!!! Well done; I lived similarly though when I was raising my kids I worked Friday-Sun so never had the experience of garage/jumble sales I think you call them until I changed my line of work when I was on grandchildren.. I know what a haybox is, though I don't know if it's familiar here much. Explain yours, and describe your pot if you have time. I've done the all day bus thing, and yes, I'm considered eccentric, but I don't care. I stretched my money to cover all the things I could for my children's needs, and I'm not too proud to say how I did it...Now my son and I live on the 3rd floor of an apartment and the neighbors do keep us warm to some degree. I spin (mostly wool) and can weave, etc..As for your rugs, you might try a dot of caulking on the four corners underneath for non slip.
That way if you don't like it you probably could peel it off; better yet, put it on a dot of another fabric, let dry and slip stitch to rug bottom..here you can find caulking (kind for tubs) for around 1-2 dollars if it's your lucky day. You can spin with a home made spindle, lots of info on web...roving (the wool you'd spin is out there...watch out, it's habit forming). Can also disassemble sweaters, skein wool and wash and hang weighted a little to straighten out "wrinkles".
As we say here, you've got it going on girl, (I'm 64)..
Three cheers! We do have a "haybox" except I don't know what to call ours. It's a styrofoam cooler that we put heated food in and then stuff with rags and cover tightly. My husband makes the yogurt in it, and we've cooked beans and a roast in it. I'll bet scalloped potatoes would work, too. We can't go car-free because it's seven miles to town, but that's a trade-off, because we can grow all the food we want and more, including meat. I am almost finished with crocheting a blanket from yarn scraps and disassembled sweaters. It's all in earth tones, and I call it "Painted Desert." I just finished a good cup of tea and am ready for the rest of the day. We have a lot in common. I loved reading your story!
Thank you for writing about frugality in the UK. Our expenses in the UK are very different from those in the USA. Nobody in the UK leaves their central heating on all night or drives a car any more than they have to.
I use the outdoor solar lights in my apartment all the time, even in the winter. You can take out the batteries, substitute a stronger battery and recharge it with an electric charger or a solar charger. You can use them throughout your house and apartment and you have cheap lighting. I don't know how much it saves but I don't worry if there is a power outage. With the larger batteries they will throw light about 6 or 7 nights before you must replace them.
People who garden know to cover the solar panel with a caulk you can peel off later. If you have a sunny window with a lite covering just hand your solar lite. Every nite it will put a glow at the window. Now these are not your cheap stick in your path dollar lite. I wait for better solar lites to go on sale. The spotlite ones are great. You can also look online and find directions for making your own solat lites.I live in Southwest La and we get too much rain and I do not want to move stuff at nite. Along my fence I have solar lites too, I never move them unless its going to storm or rain for days. Spot lite that are solar can be put in a tree to shine on your house or tree.Here in the US you are suppose to have 2 exits in everyroom for firecode. In the bathrooms on the windows half way up where a person could see in I put a pretty film cover. The other half lets the sun in so I hang a solar lite. It looks like a lite where the sides have solar panels and not the side. I raised my child by myself because my ex was a jerk and I needed to save money. When I go grocery shopping I only buy whats on sale or reduced and I have a big freezer. The crockpot and microwave are your friends. Love all of your inputs on saving money and I learn everyday...
I commend you on your efforts to live the life you want. I enjoyed reading about you and you inspired me to do some more rag rugs, because I think, why pay for something you can make and enjoy doing it?
You mention "pulses" twice in your post. Please explain as that is not a term I am familiar with. I would love to go car-free. I do not drive, but my husband does. He drives me to work, then drives himself to work and then comes to get me at night. Unfortunately the bus service in my mid sized town is erratic. There is a bus I can take to work, but I have to walk 20 minutes, through the snow (no sidewalks) to get to it. No thank you. I do take the bus spring through fall and quite enjoy the walk. But if gas jumps to four dollars a gallon like I've been hearing I might buy a sturdy pair of walking boots!
Thank you for your story. Because the US covers such a large area (& it's cheaper to buy a place in a rural area) we don't always have bus service available to us out in the "toolies"... But, I'm a big believer that if you CAN ride a bike to work, then by all means do. My daughter has also picked up my frugal habits... She's the worlds best coupon shopper... She's know for using a manufacturers coupon with a store coupon! And she saves a TON!
---> I couldn't help but worry about that gas fireplace with the clothes in front of it... & worry about the cat knocking the clothes into the fire... I guess once you've had a house fire (like us) you always worry about it ...Please be careful!
There are some wood burning stoves that are exempted to use in smokeless areas. They are a bit more expensive, but carbon neutral.
Thank you for a wonderful story! I wish there were more like you.
I am writing from America so I do not know if my advice can be used in England.
There are pellet burning stoves that you can purchase. I do not think you would have the problem with pollution as with a wood burning stove. I am asthmatic and I am getting a pellet stove because the burning produces no ash.
I also wanted to know what "pulses" were. So in case Myrtle May doesn't get back to us, I looked it up in Answers.com:
Name given to the dried seeds (matured on the plant) of legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. In the fresh, wet form they contain about 90% water, but the dried form contains about 10% water and can be stored.
We use wood stove for heating our house, and people are always offering us wood that they don't want like torn down houses, or trees that they need remove. I try and light my house with oil lamps when at all possible. I, too, try and do my marketing around recipes. Your story has made me think about how much more frugal I can be.
I live in the US, so being without a car is impossible. But, when I do have to do any type of driving, I try and put all errands together to save gas. Being frugal makes one more down to earth....and nice place to be. God Bless you for your story.
Oh honey please do not use wood from torn down houses unless it has never been treated, stained or painted. There is so much bad stuff in that wood that can creep up on you when you are sleeping. Some can pop and explode. My neighbor did this. I had a fire from a cordless phone and he had several mishaps burning pine or so called free wood. Last year God told me to cut down my 5 oak trees and I gave him as much as possible. Just do not want you trigger allergies with wood.
I'm trying to save money at the moment and recently started to realise how much "being green" can save a lot of cash too so I found your article really interesting. It's difficult for me though because I live 20 miles from work and there's no bus service (also in Northern England) so I have to drive - there's no other option unless I moved, and then my partner would have to drive to work instead!
I've been doing things like cooking with more veg, less ready made stuff and less meat so the shopping bill has really gone down. We've also just got a wood burning stove to hopefully replace the central heating (http://www.fire od-burning-stove this stove in fact!). It's gorgeous and throws out a load of heat so we've not had the heating on at all since we got it which should save some money. My next goal is to find some free firewood!
Hi, Myrtle May. I enjoyed your Frugal Life story very much. I live in a small town in Texas, about 15 miles from a major town. Riding a bike on a state highway would be taking my life into my own hands, though I would like to live car-free if I could. I am fairly frugal and love reading about others and how they save. Sincerely, Aunt Sharon from Texas
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